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TDSAT upholds TRAI order on Jios free offers; moots riders

TDSAT upholds TRAI order on Jios free offers; moots riders

New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The telecom tribunal today upheld a TRAI order that had allowed Jios free offers to continue beyond 90 days after its services were launched, but asked the regulator to work out guidelines that can be applied to check compliance with principles of non-predation.

Till such guidelines are issued by TRAI, the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) order has insisted on a filing requirement and prior approval from the regulator, for operators launching "all services free" offers.

At present, the tariffs are under forbearance, meaning that operators virtually have a free hand in fixing the rates and report plans to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in seven working days of launch.

The TDSAT order today said that till TRAI issues such guidelines no "all services free" offer can be launched by either Reliance Jio or other telecom operator "without making a written submissions to TRAI relating to self check for consistency with regulatory principles of non-predation".

"TRAI will examine such submissions within one week and convey its approval or disapproval in writing with reasons," said TDSAT order.

The TDSAT said it found the TRAI

decision with regard to Jio Welcome Offer and the Happy New Year offer to be "in order requiring no interference".

But it asked TRAI to take "appropriate action" against Jio for non-compliance of the reporting requirement, with regard to the Welcome Offer.

The two offers in reference are Jio Welcome Offer and the Happy New Year offer. Jio had launched the inaugural free voice and data plan in September 2016, and in December 2016, had extended the freebies up to March 2017.

Following this, the established players -- Airtel and Idea -- moved the tribunal against the TRAI order that allowed Jio to provide free services beyond the stipulated 90-day period.

TDSAT today also directed TRAI to issue clear guidelines, benchmarks or methodology for performing self check for consistency with principles of Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) compliance.

"We direct TRAI to issue suitable direction/order/ regulation regarding benchmark/guideline that can be applied for ascertaining consistency with the principles of non- predation," said the order.

TDSAT said its directions, need to be carried out expeditiously and "prefereably within four months".

It is pertinent to mention here that TRAI is already working on framing rules of tariff assessment with regard to promotional offers and predatory pricing.

These issues are being debated as part of Trais consultation paper on `Regulatory Principles of Tariff Assessment and pertain to measures that need to be prescribed to ensure transparency in the tariff offers of telecom operators, and strengthening definition relating to "non- discrimination". PTI MBI BJ